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Business - Written by on Wednesday, June 18, 2008 15:46 - 2 Comments

LinkedIn to Target New Audience: Your Boss

Today’s New York Times features an article about the most serious social networking site, LinkedIn. The article describes what could be a dramatic shift for social networking sites as a whole: the professional networking site will expand its current product offerings by launching new fee-based services geared toward companies to generate revenue. This departure from the industry standard revenue generator, advertising, may lead other sites to copy its strategy.

LinkedIn already offers several fee-based services, like premium accounts and a talent acquisition tool. What is different, however, about many of their new products, is that they may change the community’s identity and betray its members who may not want their company to have access to every nook and cranny of their professional life. LinkedIn seems to be walking a fine line between abusing its users’ privacy and being able to make money off of peoples’ information.

Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz says (as quoted in Wikinomics) that these new, transparent methods of communication “are definitely alienating the old guard.” According to the New York Times’ article, the average age of a LinkedIn member is 41, which lands them at the oldest end of Gen X.  The typical LinkedIn user is not exactly old guard but not really new, either. Younger social network users are also encountering similar situations: Facebook’s Beacon fiasco proved that net geners have limits for how much transparency they will tolerate when it comes to their personal information being sold straight from a social networking site. In the end, this resistance to transparency makes the sites’ functionality less than optimal for would-be social networking marketers.

From a business perspective, it seems wise for LinkedIn to forge its own path instead of mimicking the strategies of more popular sites like Facebook and Myspace, who find themselves hard pressed to continually increase revenues amid such high expectations.  As LinkedIn further establishes its reputation as “the” professional networking community, subscription charges may be just the way to avoid the business model pitfalls of the Facebooks and Myspaces of the world while providing real value for their members.

But from a user’s perspective, I can see the drawbacks to having your company monitoring your networking and career advancement activities. In an age where greater customization requires greater transparency, LinkedIn is ready to bet that its users are ready for the tradeoff, but I’m not quite so sure.  Will LinkedIn feel the backlash from its expansion a la Facebook, or will would-be defectors be willing to stay because the benefits outweigh the drawbacks?


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Mike Dover
Jun 18, 2008 16:26

Good post.

Leigh Himel made a good blog entry about how LinkedIn was forced to improve because of the success of Facebook.


Brittany Creamer
Jun 19, 2008 12:32

Leigh Himel is right on the money when she says that the very basic value to the user must be free. I think LinkedIn is right to shift to charging non-users like corporations to maximize utility for individual users, and I think they are on the right track to finding new ways to monetize their site. My only concern is if users are ready for their boss to be Big Brother, even when they are off the clock.

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